How to Prune Trees in the Winter


Winter is the best time to prune most types of trees, including fruit and nut trees, ornamentals and other deciduous trees. Because winter is the dormant season for trees, when you prune them during this season you will not lose any fruit or flowers that occur in spring, summer and fall. Proper pruning is an art, and some types of trees have different requirements than others. For example, you'll want to "pollard" the fruitless mulberry, which requires pruning all branches down to the main trunk. But most other trees just need a "haircut" once every year or two.

Step 1

Examine your tree before you begin to assess the size of the job and determine which tools you will need. Also research the proper pruning method for your particular tree.

Step 2

Cut off broken, dead, misshapen and diseased branches. Also cut branches that cross or bump into another branch, according to the University of Minnesota Extension.

Step 3

Cut branches that grow near the ground to allow pedestrian and vehicular access under the tree and to encourage a strong trunk. Also cut any suckers that sprout from the trunk's base all the way to the trunk.

Step 4

Saw large branches from underneath---first cut half way through to the top surface of the branch. Then cut down from the top, which will allow the cut branch to fall off cleanly. Avoid cutting into the branch collar, which is a raised or bulbous area where each branch connects to the main tree trunk.

Step 5

Make stiffening cuts on some trees, such as almonds, by cutting off about one-third of slender limbs.

Step 6

Discard your cut tree parts in a compost pile or at your community's green waste recycling facility.

Tips and Warnings

  • Pruning large trees can be dangerous, especially when you use power tools while you're on a ladder. Consider hiring a professional arborist for big jobs. The website Tree Boss suggests, "Hire a professional for jobs you can't handle---it's really not worth getting seriously hurt, or damaging expensive property, just to save money."

Things You'll Need

  • Large loppers
  • Tree saw
  • Chain saw (optional)
  • Ladder (optional)
  • Gloves
  • Protective eyewear


  • Tree Boss: Tree Trimming
  • Tree Help: How to Prune a Tree
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Pruning Trees and Shrubs

Who Can Help

  • High Country Gardens: Pruning Hints
Keywords: pruning trees, trimming maintenance, gardening deciduous, winter tree pruning

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.